LORENCE, Italy (VN) — Tour de France victor Chris Froome is heading to the Vuelta a España this weekend with an A-list support crew aimed at the overall win after finishing second three times at the Spanish race.
Sky yesterday revealed Froome’s teammates: Christian Knees, David Lopez, Gianni Moscon, Mikel Nieve, Wout Poels, Salvatore Puccio, Diego Rosa, and Ian Stannard.
“It certainly feels as if I’ve got unfinished business with this race,” Froome said. “I’ve finished second three times now, but I’ve got a good feeling about this year’s Vuelta.”
The Kenya-born Brit tooled his season to being ready to win the Tour/Vuelta double after falling short in 2016, 2014, and 2011. Last year Froome won two individual stages as well as the team time trial. He fell just short to Nairo Quintana in the overall, finishing second by 1:23.
This year, Froome said he purposely hit form later into the season in order to target the two races. For the first time he entered the Tour de France without a single victory.
“It feels like we’re on much more of a mission this year, and aiming for the Tour/Vuelta double this season has been a huge motivation,” Froome said. “I don’t think we’ve been to the Vuelta a España with a team as strong as we’ve got this year.”
Nieve, Poels, Rosa and Lopez should deliver Froome to the summit finishes. Knees, Moscon, Puccio and Stannard will drive the Sky train through the Spanish countryside.
This year, the race starts with two stages in France, including a team time trial in Nîmes on Saturday, and a stage in Andorra on Monday. The race continues south into Spain and includes nine summit finishes, with the first coming on the fifth stage.
“With nine mountain top finishes it’s heavily weighted for the climbers but, with an individual time trial [stage 16] of over 40 kilometers, there could be minutes won or lost there as well,” Froome said. “It’s a great balance between the pure climbers, and the rouleurs who can time trial.”
Froome called the Vuelta route “exciting and well-balanced.”
“I think this year in particular it’s been extremely hard, given the pressure in those last few days of the Tour,” he said. “I think it was only natural to get Paris to and let go a little bit and switch off after such an intense period, so it’s been quite hard to refocus again.”
A strong cast of Tour contenders will line up against Froome, including Frenchman Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale), third overall, and Italian champion Fabio Aru (Astana), fifth overall and the 2015 Vuelta champion. Tour riders Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) will also race, as will Simon and Adam Yates (Orica-Scott).
Froome said he expects the biggest challenge to come from Aru and Bardet, and said that he also expects riders who challenged for the Giro d’Italia to also be on form.
“Guys who haven’t done the Tour and will have focused more on being ready for the Vuelta: Vincenzo Nibali, Bob Jungels, Adam Yates from Orica, who will be riding with his brother Simon (Yates),” Froome said. “As a team, they pose quite a threat also with Esteban Chaves. They are a big threat.”
Contador (Trek-Segafredo) will close his career in the race that he won three times. Out of respect, the organizer will give him race number one.
Colombian Nairo Quintana (Movistar), who upset Froome on the short Formigal stage and won in 2016, will not be competing after racing both the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France this year.